Category: General

Tutorial: Enhance your vector image with Adobe Photoshop

Photoshop enhanced vector art

Enhancing vector art in Photoshop takes your image to the next level

The greatest value in any tutorial you come across on the web is not the actual image you create following the tutorial, but being exposed to the techniques used to create them.

Vector art ready for enhancementVectorTuts has a great tutorial on enhancing your vector art with Photoshop. The image to the right is a piece of vector art created in Adobe Illustrator. It’s flat and boring, and you could use many filters and techniques to enhance it in Illustrator, but exporting the vector file as a layered Photoshop file offers you the opportunity to learn some really useful techniques. The end result can be seen in the image at the top of this post.

As with any tutorial, I encourage you to play with the settings illustrated in the tutorial to suit your taste. The tut makes heavy use of layer effects and gradients. While the tutorial is what I would call intermediate level, it will probably take you about a half an hour to go through.

Adobe Creative Suite 5.5: digital content creation and new subscription plans

Adobe announces Creative Suite 5.5

CS5.5 focuses on digital content creation

Adobe has announced the next version of their Creative Suite software. CS5.5 is heavily focused on designers wishing to take their work to tablet, smartphone, and EPUB users. All versions of their individual apps will be updated (except Acrobat, which remains at version X), as will the Creative Suites that comprise the apps – including InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, and Flash.

Beyond the numerous features for building interactive documents for use on iPad, iPhone, and other tablets and smartphones, there’s not much information available covering feature updates for print-based designers.

An Adobe CS5.5 pricing chart is available to help you decide what versions of the Suites or individual apps you wish to purchase.

This is where it gets interesting. Adobe has also announced a new month-by-month subscription plan for all their major Creative Suites and individual applications. For instance, you can rent Dreamweaver for as little as $19 per month, or the entire Creative Suite Web Premium for $89 per month. Serious Creative Suite users will most likely still want to purchase their preferred Suites, but for those who just need to complete a quick website and only own Design Standard can rent Dreamweaver for the price of a week’s worth of coffee at Starbucks.

With any Adobe Creative Suite update comes discussion of frequency and cost of updates. Adobe is making changes in this area. From now on, the Creative Suite will be on a 24-month development cycle for major upgrades (CS3, CS4, CS5, CS6, etc.). Every 12 months they will also release a mid-cycle update (such as the CS5.5 just announced) which will offer only minor feature enhancements, bug fixes, and code tweaking. Previously, Adobe released Creative Suite upgrades around every 18 months.

Unless you’re doing a lot of work destined for a tablet, smartphone or ebook reader, you’re probably going to skip this release and wait for Creative Suite 6. But if you do that type of work, CS5.5 appears to be a dandy update.

Extensis brings Adobe Font Collection to web designers

WebINK brings Adobe fonts to web designers

WebINK brings Adobe fonts to web designers

Extensis announced that they are working with Adobe to deliver the Adobe Font Collection typefaces to the Web with its WebINK web font service.

Over 180 Adobe fonts are now available on WebINK, including some of their most recognized type families. Myriad Pro, Adobe Garamond Pro, and Chaparral Pro are just a few of the families available as Adobe Web Fonts.

“Extensis WebINK makes web site development and design easy, and integration with Suitcase Fusion 3 is a great feature for designers,” said Caleb Belohlavek, principal product manager for Type Development at Adobe. “We’re excited to collaborate with Extensis to provide customers with high-quality Adobe type for the web.”

Until recently, web browser and font license limitations have constrained Web developers to using only a handful of typefaces in their web designs. Extensis’ recent debut of WebINK breaks down these barriers, instantly delivering custom fonts straight to web browsers using WebINK’s global network. With WebINK, web designers simply indicate their chosen fonts using the @font-face rule in CSS. Developers can now choose from a huge array of fonts and quickly reference them within the site’s HTML code.

WebINK has a free 30-day trial, so you have a great opportunity to test your own website using custom web fonts. And don’t forget, WebINK is integrated into Extensis Suitcase Fusion, making it even easier to use.

Firefox 4 leads Mac browsers in battery life

Web browser effects on battery life

Firefox 4 is the best battery life browser for Mac users

Microsoft has released a fairly extensive study of browser use on laptop computers and the effects on battery life. Not surprisingly, IE 9 comes out in the lead overall. As far as Mac browsers go, Firefox 4 takes the crown, followed by Chrome and Safari. Opera brings up the rear in the study.

I’m not sure about the usefulness of the information, as your use of the browser is only one aspect in terms of how long your MacBook’s battery lasts. And how many people use enough Watts of power just surfing the web? But the information provided is interesting nonetheless.

Don’t fear the white lines in your PDFs created by InDesign

InDesign CS5You’re working on a brochure under a tight deadline, and upon opening the PDF you just exported from Adobe InDesign, you notice thin white lines around certain objects. Don’t miss your deadline spending too much time troubleshooting the InDesign file. More often than not, those white lines are simply a display glitch in the PDF caused by transparency flattening in the export process.

If you’re concerned, you can check your file in two ways. The first method is to simply open the PDF and zoom in and out – if the thin white line disappears when you zoom in and out, it’s just a display glitch.

The second method is to just run InDesign‘s Package command (Command + Option + Shift + P); when the report dialog appears, make sure you have no RGB images in use. When RGB images overlay CMYK images, transparency flattening problems can occur. If this is the case, then you definitely should convert those RGB images to CMYK before exporting your file as PDF.

Quark to ship XPress 9.0 next month

Announcing Quark XPress 9

Quark announces XPress 9, featuring tools to create eBooks and iPad apps

Quark recently announced that Quark XPress 9.0 will ship sometime in late April. The upgrade will feature a few nice features for designers creating flyers, brochures, posters and books like an improved links palette, import of images into a grid, and an integrated story editor. But the biggest new thing with XPress 9 is the interactive tools. XPress users can create and publish richly designed, interactive content for the web, eBooks, smartphones, the iPad, and more.

If you upgrade to ($299) or purchase a full version of ($799) Quark XPress 8 now, you’ll get the upgrade to version 9 for free.

AT&T acquires T-Mobile for $39 billion

AT&T buys T-Mobile USA

AT&T acquisition of T-Mobile USA increases the iPhone's potential marketshare even more

AT&T Inc. and Deutsche Telekom AG today announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which AT&T will acquire T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom in a cash-and-stock transaction currently valued at approximately $39 billion. The agreement has been approved by the Boards of Directors of both companies.

What does this mean for Apple and the iPhone? It means that AT&T just got a huge boost in their efforts of bringing their 4G LTE network to customers, adding 46.5 million more potential customers in the process. It also means AT&T gains a boat load of new towers that would have otherwise taken 5 years to build – and that’s great news for iPhone users! Speaking of the iPhone, Apple’s potential customer base just got a lot bigger.

Is there a down side to this deal? Yes. If you’re a happy T-Mobile customer who wanted nothing to do with AT&T, you’re out of luck.

UPDATE (3/21/11): The Q&A page on the news release at T-Mobile’s website had this to say:
T-Mobile USA remains an independent company. The acquisition is expected to be completed in approximately 12 months. We do not offer the iPhone. We offer cutting edge devices like the Samsung Galaxy S 4G and coming soon our new Sidekick 4G.

So it now appears that the iPhone will NOT be coming to T-Mobile customers after all. At least, not this year. But just like the Alltel acquisition by Verizon some years ago, I suspect everything will eventually fold under the AT&T brand, and that will probably mean iPhone availability.

Preparing your files for commercial printing

A guide to preparing your files for commercial printing

A guide to preparing your files for commercial printing

A guide to examine ways to prepare files for print, covering applications in the Adobe Creative Suite. The examples used are for InDesign, but can apply to Photoshop and Illustrator.

This is a basic guide aimed to help people just starting out in the print design business or are looking to learn more about preparing files better to send to press.

In my experience, designers with a background (or at least a deep understanding of what it takes to output files commercially) are better at their job because the results of their design more closely match their expectations.

Fonts used in popular logos

Logo fonts

Do you find yourself staring at other designer’s logo and immediately try to decipher what typeface they are using? Click the image to find out who's using what fonts in their logo.

Smart typography tips

typography rules

A few typography rules to make your design more professional

There are plenty of sites that can help you with grammar and typography – Grammar Girl comes to mind. Here are a few tips that can make your next printed piece more professional.

  • USING ALL CAPS ONLY DRAWS ATTENTION TO YOUR AMATEUR UNDERSTANDING OF DESIGN.
  • Bold, italics, underlined, or otherwise highlighted text should be used sparingly. You use these techniques to draw attention to specific text. If you overuse it, you accomplish just the opposite.
  • Fully justified text boxes are not only more difficult to read, but they tend to leave you with unsightly gaps throughout your text.
  • Periods and commas belong “inside the quotes, not outside them.”
  • Headlines don’t have to be the thickest bold typestyle you have available. Consider making your headlines a thin typestyle, and just a few points larger instead.
  • Placing two spaces at the end of a sentence went out with the typewriter. Just don’t do it.
  • Make every effort to use black or relatively solid color body copy. When you use a four-color body copy at sizes smaller than 12-14 points, it’s quite difficult to register on the printing press.
  • Proper grammar requires you to not indent the first paragraph, but all the following ones instead. That being said, indenting paragraphs is another rule that mostly died with the typewriter. Newspapers still do it, but consider that they’re using a small text size and trying to cram as much on a page as possible, so they use the tightest leading possible, and little to no space between paragraphs.
  • Scaling type horizontally or vertically looks horrible. You’re much better off finding an extended or tall typestyle instead.
  • Widows tell the intelligent reader that you just don’t care. Adjust the kerning, line breaks, or the content of the text itself to avoid having only one or two words at the end of a paragraph whenever possible.
  • Along with paragraph widows, having your first column of text spill over into a second column (or the next page) with only one sentence (orphans) just looks bad.
  • When indenting bullet lists, make sure that the second line of text is indented to line up with the first letter of the bullet, not the bullet itself. You can do this by hitting Command + \ just before the first letter of text after a bullet point.
  • For the love of God, kern any headlines or large text blocks. It’s easy to hide the bad kerning of a font in body text, but uneven gaps in headlines looks horrible. It’s especially noticeable in any text used in a logo. Take the few extra seconds to clean it up.

In the first paragraph I mentioned print design. It’s quite difficult, if not impossible, to stick to these rules when working in HTML. Society pretty much accepts a lot more on a web page than they do in print when it comes to typography.